Camielle Laslo is from Leq’á:mel First Nation, a reserve a couple hours away from Vancouver, B.C., and is a teacher. Laslo teaches the Halq’eméylem language at Mission Public Schools. Before this, she was first hired in a First Nation School based out of the Fraser Valley in Agassiz Area and worked at Seabird Island Community School.
When she was a kid, Laslo first started learning the language when she attended a school where elders would come into the class daily to teach them various things such as colours, plants, songs, and more. She was able to have conversations in her language with her grandfather, and would read little books to her mother in their language.
Laslo went to the University of Fraser Valley in 2005 and took language courses where a certificate would be awarded once completed, and was amazed to remember what she did after all the years that passed. She says, “That’s really where it started.”
Laslo continued working and continued going to school, and started her teaching program at the University of British Columbia in 2008 and finished her certificate in 2011 with the language proficiency.
She has been teaching the language since 2013, and fell into her new job by fate. She says she first came in as a teacher on call, and was a teacher assistant in different schools before she became a teacher.
When Laslo started at Seabird, she was a fill-in for teachers that would call in sick until the principal found out she had her Halq’eméylem certificate on top of her teaching degree.
Laslo was then informed their language teacher at the school was trying to retire, but was a little hesitant at first until she changed her mind and “took the risk.”
Sure enough, she was hired to teach full time that next year.
“I was able to shadow the teacher that was retiring. The last six weeks that she was working, I was right alongside her and learning how they did the language classes.”
But before she became a teacher, she had to go through the motions of school, which she says was a “huge adjustment” coming from a small town to a city. But her advice for trying to navigate the new surroundings is to go out an explore it.
“If you’re thinking about going to university, check it out beforehand. Get to know the land. Get to know where things are. Explore and try to meet people on campus, and its not that scary after all. They’re just like anybody else.”
One of the things she “definitely had to learn” was how to manage her money properly living in the big city and had to get creative, using petrol points to get coffee or her mom giving her canned goods when she would be back for a visit.
“I was able to just offset some of those costs, because living in a big city is way different for the cost of living, for rent, for food too,” says Laslo.
“It was definitely a different experience, but definitely valuable skills that I learned.”
Special thanks to Jasmine Kabatay for authoring this blog post.
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